Lincoln Peirce is a cartoonist/writer and the creator of the comic strip Big Nate. It appears in more than two hundred U.S. newspapers and online daily at comics.com.

Lincoln Peirce lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Maine.

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Big Nate in Translation

One of the things I never thought much about when I started writing Big Nate books was the fact that they might eventually be printed in other languages.  And, in fact, that has started happening. I think I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that I’d just seen Big Nate in Italian for the first time.  The picture shown here is from the European Spanish edition of Big Nate:  In A Class By Himself.  In Spanish, the book is called Nate El Grande:  Unico En Su Clase.  I’m not entirely certain how many foreign editions there will be, but I think it’s fun to see the characters speaking other languages.  I’m looking forward to seeing the Chinese and Taiwanese versions when they come out.

Many parts of the books will probably seem funny to kids, no matter what language they’re reading in.  At least I hope so.  But there might be certain parts that don’t translate quite as well.  Will a kid living in Germany enjoy all the stuff about Ben Franklin in Big Nate Strikes Again?  Will a kid living in Norway be able to follow the action in the fleeceball games?  I’ll just have to wait and see.

And now for the question of the day, which comes from Devin in Illinois.  Devin wants to know:  In Poor Nate’s Almanack, Nate draws pictures of DeeDee and Kevin and Sharon, but they are not in the book.  Are you going to put them in the next book?

Devin’s referring to pages 158 and 159 of Big Nate Strikes Again, where Nate shows the reactions of some of his classmates to the deadline for Mrs. Godfrey’s special project.  That’s a good question, Devin.  I can tell you that none of those characters appear in book 3, Big Nate On A Roll.  But there’s certainly a chance they could show up in future books.  Of those three kids, I think the one with the best chance of stepping up and becoming a “real” character is DeeDee.  She clearly has a flair for the dramatic!

All for now.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Fri, 01/21/2011

A Very Unusual Drawing

Hi everyone,

Since it was a 3-day weekend, I’m sending both my entries this week a day later than usual.  Here’s the first one:

I hope you all enjoyed your holiday weekend.  For most of the past three days, I’ve been working on drawings for Big Nate On A Roll.  On Saturday, I spent about ten hours on one drawing.  Which means either 1.) I was drawing very, very slowly, or 2.) this was a very unusual drawing. 

The truth lies somewhere in between.  Yes, I WAS drawing pretty slowly...and yes, this WAS a very unusual drawing. 

If you flip through Big Nate Strikes Again, you’ll find all kinds of drawings.  Go to the bottom of page 8 and you’ll find a very simple drawing of Francis and Teddy examining a baby picture on the bulletin board.  It’s a straightforward head and shoulders picture.  There’s no lettering (except for a couple of question marks floating around their heads) and there’s no background.  The process of making this drawing — measuring, sketching, inking --  probably took only 25 or 30 minutes.

Now flip to the bottom of page 54.  In this drawing, Nate is standing in front of his locker, facing Randy Betancourt and his posse.  This is a much more complicated drawing.  There are six full-body characters in the foreground, and three in the distant background.  There’s a speech bubble with lettering.  And there’s an entire row of lockers behind Nate.  Making this drawing took a lot longer than the first one — probably between 2 and 3 hours.

Which brings me to Saturday’s 10-hour drawing.  It’s a full-page drawing, which automatically means it’s time-consuming.  But I’ve done plenty of full-page drawings for the first two Big Nate books, and they usually take 4 or 5 hours...so why did this particular drawing take 10?  Well, for one thing, it’s not a drawing that includes Nate, or Francis, or Teddy...or ANY of the characters you know from reading Books 1 and 2.  It’s a drawing that depicts, among other things, a squirrel, a grandmother and grandchildren, an owl, an airplane, a rainbow, a seal, two rag dolls, a kitten, and a crying baby.  So I was drawing things I don’t usually draw, which meant I was drawing much more slowly than usual.  The easiest part was the seal, because I’ve actually drawn quite a few seals in the past.  The one in the picture shown here is from an animated cartoon I wrote a few years ago.  And, if you’ve played Big Nate Island on Poptropica, you know that seals play a crucial role in helping you complete the quest.

All for now.  Back to the drawing board!

Mon, 01/17/2011

A Rose By Any Other Name...

I’ve never been very good at remembering names.  And that reminds me of a story.  (But the story comes later.  First you have to read the next three paragraphs!)

Often, when I’m creating a new character for “Big Nate” — either the comic strip or the chapter books — I don’t have a name in mind for that character right away.  First I decide what he or she will look like; that’s the most important part of the process.  It’s usually not until I’m reasonably satisfied with the character’s appearance that I start thinking about a name. 

I guess the fact that I’m a big sports fan influences my decisions, because there are several characters whose last names come from the world of sports.  Randy Betancourt is a good example.  There’s a major league pitcher named Rafael Betancourt who signed his first contract with my beloved Boston Red Sox back in the early 1990’s.  I was fascinated by his name, because I didn’t think “Rafael” and “Betancourt” sounded like they belonged together.  “Betancourt” sounded sort of snooty.  Anyway, last year, when I was creating a bully character for the first Big Nate book, I immediately thought of Rafael Betancourt.  I just substituted “Randy” for “Rafael”, because it’s never a good idea to name a fictional character after a real-life individual.

Mrs. Shipulski, the front office secretary at P.S. 38, is another character with a sports inspiration.  Since I was a boy I’ve been a devoted fan of the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team.  A dozen or so years ago — when the team came oh-so-close to winning a national championship — there was a player on the team I really enjoyed watching.  And I also liked his name: Jason Shipulski.  Soon after he graduated, I brought Mrs. Shipulski’s character into the comic strip.  Eventually, I received an email from Jason’s aunt, who’d seen the strip and wondered where I came up with the name.  I was happy to write her back and let her know how much I’d admired her nephew’s hockey skills.

And now for the story:  When I created the character of the elderly detention monitor at P.S. 38, I wanted just the right name.  Years ago, when I was a boy growing up in New Hampshire, candlepin bowling was often televised.  (If you don’t know what candlepin bowling is, google it.  It’s much more fun than tenpin bowling.)  These bowling broadcasts featured candlepin bowlers from around New England competing for cash prizes.  I remembered — or THOUGHT I did — that the all-time women’s candlepin champ was named Stasia Czerwicki.  So I named the detention monitor in “Big Nate” Mrs. Czerwicki.  It was only later that I discovered that the queen of the candlepins was actually named Stasia CZERNICKI, with an N instead of a W.  But that’s okay.  I like the name either way.

More on names next time!

Sun, 01/09/2011

The Brooklyn Dodger

Last time, I told a couple of stories about being paid for drawings while I was in college.  I have one more story to tell — this is the last one, I promise!  -- about an early experience as a “professional cartoonist.”

You might remember that in the late 1980’s, I was the art teacher at Xavier High School in New York City.  Another teacher there, a friend of mine named Kevin, was in the process of opening a sports bar with his brothers and their friends called “The Brooklyn Dodger.”  He asked if I would create a mascot for the bar — sort of an “artful dodger” character.  (For those of you who don’t know who the Artful Dodger was, he was a character in a novel called “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens.  He was a pickpocket, the leader of a band of child criminals, and even though he himself is a child, he dresses like an adult, with a long coat and a top hat.)  So I drew a jaunty little guy in a shabby coat and a top hat, and I did some lettering that said “The Brooklyn Dodger.”  Kevin paid me for my work, and I never gave it another thought.

Here was the problem:  there used to be a baseball team called the Brooklyn Dodgers.  They had moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles back in the 1950’s, and even though the name “Brooklyn Dodgers” was no longer trademarked or copyrighted, the Los Angeles Dodgers felt that they still owned the rights to the name.  They weren’t happy that Kevin and his partners had opened a bar called “The Brooklyn Dodger.”   So eventually, Major League Baseball Properties sued Kevin and his partners for trademark infringement.  They claimed that the sports bar was trying to capitalize on the “good name” of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.  And since I had been involved in creating the logo and mascot, I was called to testify at the trial.  On two different occasions, I was questioned under oath by a bunch of lawyers — the first time at a law firm, the second time in a crowded courtroom.  I have to admit, it was a little intimidating.

All the legal proceedings took a long time, but finally the judge decided in favor of Kevin and his partners.  Their bar was able to keep its name.  The judge said that, since the Los Angeles Dodgers had made no effort to protect the Brooklyn Dodger name for the previous thirty years, “they have no good name to lose.”  I was very happy for Kevin and his partners, and even happier that I wasn’t the one who’d been sued.

Next time I’ll get back to the subject of Big Nate.  That’s all for now!

Wed, 01/05/2011

A Paid Cartoonist

Here’s Ben Franklin (Big Nate’s favorite historical figure!) looking like he’s thinking hard about something.  Why?  Because he’s helping me answer the question of the day, which comes from Oliver.  Oliver asks:  When was the first time you were ever paid for a cartoon?

I’m really going to have to dig deep into the memory banks for this answer.  Even though I started thinking of myself as a cartoonist at a fairly young age, I certainly never made any money as a cartoonist in middle school or even high school.  I remember some friends asking me to draw stuff on their notebooks back then, but it never would have occurred to me to ask to be paid.  So I think it’s safe to say that, up through high school, I maintained my amateur status.

In college, I can remember a couple of occasions where I was paid for a drawing.  I can’t recall which came first, so I’ll briefly tell you about both of them.

My college’s mascot was a mule.  Officially, we were the Colby White Mules.  Needless to say, not everyone was crazy about the name.  Eventually, a group of people banded together in an effort to change our mascot from a mule to a moose.  After all, Colby College is in Maine, and Maine is noted more for its moose than its mules.  To publicize this campaign, some people came up with the slogan, “THE MOOSE IS LOOSE!”  They planned to sell t-shirts, and they asked me if I would make a drawing of a fierce-looking moose bursting out of a giant letter “C.”  So I did the best I could, even though I’d never drawn a moose before.  I think they paid me 20 or 25 dollars.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, someone must have decided that my moose wasn’t quite moosy enough.  When the t-shirts came out, I went to buy one and discovered that they’d used a different drawing. I had to admit that it was a better-looking moose than I’d managed to draw.  Still, it sort of bummed me out.

On another occasion, a couple of classmates came to my dorm room one day.  They were both avid skiers, and were trying to start a company to make their own ski jackets.  Something about their ski jacket design was, apparently, revolutionary.  They were going to make a presentation to some potential investors, and asked me to make some drawings of the jacket.  But they didn’t have any jackets for me to look at, because they hadn’t started their company yet.  So one of them sketched the jacket in sort of a clumsy way, and then tried to re-draw it in a slightly less clumsy way.  I think it would have been helpful if I’d had some kind of background in fashion design.  I thought my drawing looked pretty lame, but they seemed happy with it. They paid me 50 dollars.  I have no idea if they ever got their company off the ground.  With a drawing like mine as one of their visual aids, probably not.

That’s all I have time for.  More to come in the next entry!

Sun, 01/02/2011

New Year's Eve Monopoly

If you read today’s Big Nate comic strip (just click on the “comic strip” button on this website), you’ll see that Nate, Francis, and Teddy are playing Monopoly.   This has become something of a tradition in the strip over the years; I don’t do it every year (after all, there are only so many jokes you can write about a board game), but a quick look at the archives reveals that I’ve featured a New Year’s Eve Monopoly game in the strip at least ten times in the past 15 years or so.

We had our own Monopoly tradition when I was a kid.  It didn’t last 15 years, but for a stretch of 5 or 6 years, my parents would invite another family over to ring in the new year.  The adults would stay upstairs, playing Monopoly in the living room.  Meanwhile, the kids (they had two daughters) would take over the basement playroom, where there was a ping pong table, a stereo, and a black-and-white television.  You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the ball drop in Times Square in glorious black and white.

Eventually, I became old enough to enjoy the game.  (When you’re young, it can seem far too long.)  During high school and college, I often played a New Year’s Eve game of Monopoly with my friends Dit, Knight, and Larry.  Nowadays, I only play once or twice a year, usually against my son Elias and my nephews, Cam and Derek.

Meanwhile, here are some fun facts about Monopoly:

  • The properties in Monopoly are named for locations in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
  • The game’s mascot (the little guy in the top hat), usually referred to as “Mr. Monopoly,” is also called “Rich Uncle Pennybags.”
  • The properties that represent the best value are the orange properties (St. James Place, Tennessee Avenue, and New York Avenue).
  • Each year, the winner of the World Monopoly Tournament wins $20,580 (the total amount of paper money in a standard Monopoly game).

In recent years, from what I understand, the new editions of Monopoly include redesigned game pieces.  Personally, I prefer playing with the set my parents own, which is so old that the game pieces are made of wood.  The “classic” game pieces I remember best are the top hat, the shoe, the race car, the dog, the steamboat, the thimble, the iron, the cannon, and the wheelbarrow.  My personal favorite is the wheelbarrow. 

There you have it:  my last blog entry of 2010.  Have a happy new year, and I’ll see you in 2011!

Thu, 12/30/2010

Dynamic Drawings

I’m not certain when you’re going to be reading this, but I’m writing it on Sunday, the day after Christmas.  The entire northeast is bracing for the upcoming “storm of the century.”  We usually have one or two “storms of the century” per year.  I don’t mind.  I’ve always liked winter, and shoveling snow is one of the least objectionable chores.  It beats raking leaves, folding laundry, or vacuuming.  Besides, in my lifetime there’s really been only one TRUE  “storm of the century.”  Try looking up “Blizzard of ‘78” and see what you come up with.

But on to the subject at hand.  I’ve just started working on the finished artwork for Big Nate On A Roll, and it occurred to me while I was at my desk that many of these drawings change significantly from the rough version to the finished piece.  Sometimes that’s because I’ve changed the text and the artwork needs to change accordingly (like the “lemon square” episode in Book 1 that I blogged about in a past entry).  But more often, I change the artwork simply because I’m trying to make it more interesting.

The picture you see here is a good example.  On top is the rough drawing from chapter 4 of Big Nate Strikes Again when Nate flops into a beanbag chair in the school library.  Below is the finished version.  Nate’s much more animated in the final version.  It’s a more dynamic drawing, more interesting to look at, and it’s funnier, too.  Creating more action, as I did here, is one way to make a drawing more interesting.  But there are plenty of other things that can help also.  A more detailed background is one.  Bolder lettering, or lettering that’s stylized, is another.  And I always try to make sure I don’t put two similar drawings close to each other.  It can look mighty dull to have a drawing of Nate and Francis walking down a hallway on page 22, with ANOTHER drawing of them walking down a hallway on page 23.  So I try to change their poses, or draw them from a different perspective, or switch between full-body drawings and close-ups, and so on.

Speaking of drawing, I’ve mentioned in a past blog entry that Book 4, Big Nate Goes For Broke, is going to take place in the winter.  Maybe this latest “storm of the century” will help me come up with some ideas for the book.  If the town or city where you live has been hit by the storm, enjoy the snow.  And remember that shoveling snow is great exercise!
Mon, 12/27/2010

Happy Holidays!

This entry will likely be on the brief side, since I’m STILL far behind in all my preparations for Christmas.  I think the shopping is just about done, but there’s  gift wrapping, baking, housecleaning, etc. yet to come.

What do you suppose Nate and some of the other characters in the Big Nate books would like for Christmas?  I have a few ideas:

Nate:  He asks for a dog every year, but never gets one.  He’d probably also appreciate a new Social Studies teacher, a different name for his fleeceball team, and at least a year’s supply of Cheez Doodles.  Oh, and if Jenny were to dump Artur, that would be great, too.

Francis:  He’d probably be happy getting the newest edition of the Book of Facts, so he can torture Nate and Teddy with completely useless bits of trivia.  (By the way, did you know that more people die each year from vending machine accidents than from shark attacks?)

Teddy:  Teddy’s a jokester, so he might enjoy some prank items:  maybe a whoopie cushion, a joy buzzer, a dribble glass, and so on.  You know, the classics.

Gina:  There are only two things that Gina wants for Christmas.  First, she’d like her perfect grade point average to continue indefinitely.  Second, she wants Nate to keep getting in trouble in the new year.  I have a feeling she’ll get her wish.

Artur:  What’s a good gift for a kid who already has practically everything?  Artur’s so nice, he’ll probably give away his Christmas gifts...which Nate will find incredibly annoying.

Jenny:  I’m sure one of Jenny’s wishes is for Nate to NEVER come near her with a plate of egg salad again.  (If you’ve read Big Nate Strikes Again, you’ll know what I mean!)

That’s all for now.  Happy holidays, everyone!

 

Wed, 12/22/2010

The Season of Giving

Nate’s getting into the holiday spirit, as the scene of him wearing his “mistletoe hat” makes clear.  But I’m not sure I’m ready to join Nate just yet.  I love the holidays, but this is one of those years when I’m way, WAY behind on all of my shopping.  I’ll have no choice but to squeeze all my gift-buying into a couple of days later this week.  And my dear family hasn’t helped me out much by giving me many suggestions about what they might want.  So I’m on my own, a frightening prospect for all concerned.

I’m certainly capable of giving thoughtful presents, but I’ve had my share of clunkers, too — especially when I was a kid.  Until I was a certain age, my parents did what most parents do:  they bought gifts for themselves and then let me wrap them up and offer them as if I’d bought them myself.  But at a certain point — sixth grade sounds about right — they decided I was old enough to make my own decisions about what to give them for Christmas.  Bad move by them.  I distinctly remember buying a book for my father; the title was something like “America’s Greatest Heavyweights.”  It was a book about boxing.  To my knowledge, my dad had absolutely no interest in boxing.  But I was fascinated by it.  So I bought him something I desperately wanted for myself.  What a thoughtful gift!

I didn’t give my mother any books about boxing — even I knew better than that — but I remember buying her a couple of absolutely hideous pieces of jewelry.  One time I bought her what I thought was a pair of earrings.  It turned out they were cufflinks.  Live and learn.

Good luck to all of you if, like me, you still have some gift shopping to do.  Only one more blogging day ‘til Christmas!  In other words, I’ll have time for one more entry between now and the 25th.  See you then!

Mon, 12/20/2010

TV/Radio Satellite Tour

Here’s what I did today:  I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and drove from my house in Portland, Maine, to Boston, Massachusetts for a TV/radio satellite tour.  You may well be wondering:  what’s THAT?  I don’t blame you:  I didn’t know myself what a TV/radio satellite tour was until last  spring, when I did my first one.  Anyway, here’s your answer.

Publishers have publicity departments whose job it is to spread the word about their books and authors.  Part of that is going out on book tours, as I did back in October/November.  Another part is being interviewed on television and radio shows.  So today I spent about four and a half hours in a small room in Boston, speaking via satellite to TV and radio stations about Big Nate.  I wore a little earpiece so that I could hear what they were saying, and I wore a clip-on microphone so they could hear me.  Most of the interviews were short — 3 or 4 minutes long — and, after each one ended, I’d have a few minutes to have a drink of water, stretch my legs, etc. etc.  Most of the interviewers wanted to hear details about Big Nate:  how long ago I started the comic strip, what Big Nate Strikes Again is about, and things like that.  I think I did almost two dozen interviews with stations all across the country.

The only strange part is that the people who are interviewing you aren’t there in the room with you.  So when you’re doing a TV interview, you’re looking directly into a camera and trying to imagine there’s someone sitting there.  When I did this last spring I felt nervous initially, but after the first few conversations, that went away.  And, fortunately for me, I don’t have to watch myself on camera.  Many people say they can’t stand the sound of their own voices when they hear recordings of themselves; I don’t mind my voice, but I don’t like the way I look on camera.  I remind myself of a praying mantis.

That was today.  Tomorrow I’ll finally be starting the finished artwork for Big Nate On A Roll.  That’s all for this entry!

Wed, 12/15/2010